One of the Few Who Repudiated the War

From the archive (legacy material)

Ken Schubert | Chronicle, Dagens Nyheter | 24 July 1996

When growing up in the Fifties, I read only one comic book: Superman. What most fascinated me wasn’t the hero’s valiant deeds but Lois Lane’s smoldering passion for him and her equally smoldering indifference for her journalist colleague Clark Kent.
Thirty years later I was just as uncharacteristically captivated by the Superman movies with Christopher Reeve and Margot Kidder. I was especially enraptured by the film in which Lois Lane and Superman finally consummate their relationship in his ice palace at the North Pole. Afterwards he’s compelled to induce amnesia in her in order to preserve his anonymity. In the last scene Clark walks up to Lois and tremulously asks her to lunch. “Oh, Clark, some other time,” she sighs wearily.
When George Bush launched the Gulf War, I was coordinator of a peace group in Tennessee and published a political newsletter, i.e. a failed Superman and a victorious Clark Kent. After the war I read an article by Margot Kidder in The Nation about a television program she had appeared on at a time when Americans were upset by the fact that the Iraqis had paraded one of their pilots through the streets of Baghdad. “I guess it’s okay to bomb innocent women and children but not to humiliate a pilot who’s been shot down. Give me a break,” Margot had blurted out, which lead to headlines such as “Margot Defends Saddam.” “My God, I’m no traitor,” wrote Margot, “I’m Superman’s fucking girlfriend.”
Late in the summer of 1991 I covered the trial of army physician Yolanda Huet-Vaughn, who had refused to participate in the war, for my newsletter. On the second day of the trial Yolanda learned unexpectedly that her friend Margot Kidder was on the way to testify on her behalf. But there wasn’t anyone who could pick her up at the airport. “I guess I’ll just have to do it,” I said, a little cautiously. Two hours in the car with Lois Lane. It was too good to be true!
“You know what Margot looks like, don’t you?” asked Yolanda. What a ridiculous question! Could I fail to recognize Lois Lane? But Margot wasn’t on the plane. Feeling crushed, I drove back to the trial.
It turned out that I had let Margot go right by me at the gate. She didn’t fit my image of Lois Lane, but rather was a tough-looking woman with resolute bearing and quick decision-making ability. She had rented a car and driven to the trial by herself.
But all was not lost. There weren’t any vacant rooms at the motel and Yolanda wanted to know if anyone could surrender theirs to Margot. And what do you think Superman would have done in such a situation? Right you are, the same thing as I did – forget one of his bags in the motel room. At 10:00 that night I stood on the steps knocking on her door. “Is it you?” said Margot, “it’s a good thing you came by, I think you left something here.” Of course, she understood the whole thing, because when she handed me the bag, she leaned over and kissed me on the forehead.
By the next day I had reassumed my Clark Kent identity. “Margot, may I interview you for my newsletter?” I asked her over and over. “Oh, Ken,” she said, “some other time.” But a couple of days later we recorded a wide-ranging discussion.
Despite her sharp critique of the U.S, she demonstrated rare magnanimity. “In the U.S. we worship money and power,” she said, “but there’s a kind of dichotomy, because in many ways we’re the most generous people in the world. During the Gulf War Americans really believed that we were fighting for justice and standing up for a small country.”
After her public opposition to the war, Margot didn’t expect any more Hollywood roles. The stars who had spoken out against the war could be numbered on the fingers of one hand and Margot was the most outspoken of all. Hollywood had managed to atone for its sins of disloyalty from the Vietnam era.
Recent stories in the press indicate that the American film industry doesn’t want anything more to do with Margot, and that she was recently found wandering around Hollywood in a daze. There are surely many people who assume that she was trying to make her way back into the film capital, but I know better. She was trying to get out, away from the nightmare that had been pursuing her, a nightmare produced and directed by the sanctimonious arrogance that lays claim to our innocence and then threatens us with it like a loaded weapon. Presumably she’s in Canada now. She may not have made it as far north as the ice palace yet, but I for one still believe in her. Oh Margot, some other time.
Translated from Swedish by Ken Schubert
Chronicle, Dagens Nyheter, July 24, 1996